ENCOUNTERING THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST

Chalice on the altar after the consecration of the Eucharist

At the Last Supper, Christ mandated us to take bread and break it, to pour wine and share it in his memory. But this was no simple memorial, for he told us the bread was his body and the wine his blood. We have believed ever since that he is really and truly present to us. No longer mere bread, it becomes his Body given for us. No longer mere wine, it becomes his Blood poured out for us. Source of spiritual nourishment for those who follow him and summit of our worship, we have obediently celebrated this sacrificial meal in catacomb and cathedral ever since.

The celebration of Eucharist connects us intimately with our God. Just as when we eat food, it literally becomes a part of our body – transforming into vitamins and minerals that keep us alive, so too, does the food of the Eucharist, literally become a part of our body. In so doing it transforms us spiritually. But it ought also to transform us physically! This is what I mean.

St. Augustine is famed to have said about the Eucharist, “Behold what you are, become what you receive.” St. Paul tells us that we are the body of Christ. Once we have found Christ in the sacramental celebration of Eucharist, we are enabled and empowered to find him in his Living Body here on earth. For the intimate connection we can experience with Christ in the Eucharist is inextricably bound to the intimate connections we must have with Christ in his people. We act differently because of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. Our eyes see differently. Our ears hear differently. Our hands respond differently. 

We can now see, hear and touch Christ’s Real Presence in our neighbour. Our celebration of the Eucharist and our time spent before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer ought to transform how we physically (and spiritually) encounter the Body of Christ in the world.

“If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the Church door,“ wrote St. John Chrysostom, “you will not find him in the chalice.” 

On this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood (formerly called Corpus Christi), in a time in which so many of us have been deprived of regular reception of the Bread of Heaven, we have not been deprived of the opportunity to find Christ in our neighbour. We are given the opportunity to see Christ behind masked faces and gloved hands.  We are given the opportunity to minister to Christ in those asking for food or shelter. We are offered occasion to stand with Christ in the victims of racism and sexism and gender-based hate. We are offered occasion to rage against Christ crucified in the Indigenous children who were murdered and not even given the dignity of burial. We are presented with chances to reach out …

… to meet Christ in those we work with and study with,

… to love Christ in our husbands and wives and children and parents,

… to care for Christ in those who are just beginning life, not yet born, and those at the end of life, not yet passed to the next. 

If we respond to these invitations to encounter Christ in the flesh and blood of each one of these beloved ones of God, we can be assured, I believe, that we will be linked more closely to him in Body and Blood when we are finally able to return to regular sacramental nourishment.

Christine Way Skinner is a lay minister and author. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Theology degree from St. Francis Xavier University and a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. Christine loves trying to find inclusive, compelling and creative ways to pass on the church’s 2000 year old traditions. She also loves art, playing music, reading, gardening and playing board games with her children. Christine’s numerous publications can be found and purchased here.

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